Flashback: Motherwell 4-3 Dundee United, 1991 Scottish Cup final

Motherwell FC fans were in dreamland again on Sunday night as they watched a televised rerun of the club’s famous 4-3 1991 Scottish Cup final victory over Dundee United.

1991 Scottish Cup winning heroes Phil O'Donnell and Ally Maxwell

The epic extra time triumph – thanks to Stevie Kirk’s headed goal from a Davie Cooper corner – was screened in its entirety on the BBC Scotland channel.

Here, Times and Speaker sports reporter Craig Goldthorp – a 14-year-old schoolboy at the time of the final on May 18, 1991 – shares his memories from attending that monumental day at Hampden Park 29 years ago which remains Motherwell’s last trophy success.

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Watching the epic match again on Sunday night had the adrenaline flowing through my body and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

Commentator Jock Brown’s emphatic line just after full-time: “Motherwell have won the cup, in the most dramatic fashion possible!” perfectly encompassed the scale of the achievement as the Steelmen landed the famous old trophy for the first time since 1952 and only the second time in the club’s history.

The main memory I have of the day is the incredible number of Motherwell supporters who made the journey to Mount Florida to watch the final, around 30,000 of them in a crowd of 57,319!

To put that in perspective, Motherwell’s hardcore home support at Fir Park back then – as it is today – only hovered around the 4000 mark.

Pre-kick-off and throughout most of the match, those same fans comfortably outsang their Dundee United counterparts and gave superb backing.

As for the game itself, I remember thinking early on that we were in for a tanking.

Motherwell didn’t start well, with United striker Hamish French having an early ‘goal’ disallowed and Freddy van der Hoorn hitting the inside of the post with a free-kick.

But we gradually came into it and took a 33rd minute lead when Iain Ferguson brilliantly bulleted home a Jim Griffin cross.

The Motherwell end went into raptures; we were going to win this!

But there was a monumental blow early in the second half when ’Well keeper Ally Maxwell (pictured below ) – was clattered by giant United defender John Clark and sustained a ruptured spleen and broken ribs.

Although barely able to stand up and grimacing with pain every time he kicked the ball, Maxwell showed extreme bravery by playing on. With no substitute keeper, Stevie Kirk would have had to come on for him so it’s a good job Maxy showed such heroics!

My heart then sank when a speculative effort by United’s Dave Bowman went under Maxwell – who looked slow going down due to his injury – and found the net for 1-1.

With a badly injured goalie and the Terrors getting up a head of steam, I feared the worst.

But I had no need to worry as this gutsy Motherwell team went 3-1 up thanks to Phil O’Donnell’s incredibly brave header after a Davie Cooper free-kick, and then Ian Angus’s stunning low left foot strike from Kirk’s astute layoff.

I remember an ecstatic Angus and his jubilant mates running over to celebrate in front of where I sat in the Main Stand.

’Well fans thought we were a certainty to win and began to stamp their feet in joy (a fad back then) but we were rocked within a minute as United made it 3-2 when John O’Neil headed in a Bowman cross.

Stress levels were now going into overdrive as Motherwell battled manfully to preserve their narrow lead and it looked as if we were going to do it as the score remained 3-2 heading into the final minute of regulation play.

There was then the cruellest of blows as a punt the full length of the field by United keeper Alan Main wasn’t dealth with by the ’Well centre backs or the outrushing Maxwell and Darren Jackson headed in to break our hearts.

Things very nearly turned into a complete nightmare in injury time as the Tangerines’ Maurice Malpas did us a massive favour by blasting a glorious scoring chance over the bar with his left foot.

It was into extra time and Motherwell surprised me by how good they were in the first period – boosted by a fine team talk by manager Tommy McLean – after the despair of losing the Jackson goal.

The Steelmen were well on top again and deservedly went 4-3 up when Cooper’s corner from the right evaded Main – among a sea of bodies – and fell perfectly for Kirk to bullet home a header.

The celebrations at that point were incredible, as the ’Well hordes hailed ‘Supersub’, who had now scored in every single round of the Scottish Cup that year.

Although we were now 4-3 up, to say the remaining minutes of extra time were relaxing viewing would be wrong!

Maxwell produced an astonishing leap to turn a powerful Malpas drive over the bar and – in added time in extra time – a long diagonal ball dropped to United’s Clark at the back post before his deflected left footed effort hit the side netting.

After that heart stopping drama, referee David Syme blew his final whistle and the celebrations could begin!

Motherwell had won the Scottish Cup and qualified to play in the European Cup Winners Cup the next season.

Every Motherwell player was cheered to a man as they took their turns to lift the cup, with heroic keeper Maxwell given an especially loud cheer as he raised the famous old silverware. Quite simply, it was an incredible day of drama.